As Coronavirus continues to impact every facet of our lives, businesses are struggling to cope without their projected revenue stream. With unprecedented circumstances and a hazy future, many businesses have been put in the difficult situation of standing down team members. If you have had to make this hard decision, it’s important to recognise where your support can be helpful and how to facilitate a dialogue with them. Maintain the line of communication so that when the economy does bounce back, stood down team members are ready and willing to return to your workplace. Support provided during this time not only helps the transition from full time work, but also establishes a positive path to return.
First and foremost, it’s important that every interaction with your employee is one of respect and dignity. Losing your revenue stream is tough enough during normal circumstances, and the added external pressure of a global pandemic can be extremely stressful. Now, more than ever you will need to support staff in the ways that they need it, through showing empathy.
The Fairwork Ombudsman has put together this useful resource on how to have a difficult conversation with your team members. It provides guidance on how to prepare, and handle the direction of the conversation, but also how to manage both your own and your team member’s emotions.
Employee mental health is just as important as physical health and as much as you can do to help look after this the better. This can begin with providing a list of resources, here are a few places to start:
The Queensland Government ‘How to look after your mental wellbeing in a crisis’ article is an excellent starting point for finding up to date resources and useful tools. It provides immediately actionable ideas that your team members can start using.
Lifeline is a fantastic resource to use if you think your team member may need to discuss their situation with someone external. They also provide useful tools for managing stress and staying connected.
Beyond Blue has a great website dedicated to Coronavirus which includes a series of links that can help with
Just like the economic downturn in 2008, all things come to an end and the Coronavirus crisis will not last forever. The reason that there is an option to stand down employees is that these circumstances are extraordinary but also temporary. This is why it’s so important to continue to maintain contact with your employees who have been stood down so that they continue to recognise they are valued.
Check-in with your team to see where you can provide assistance to them. Perhaps they need some help with a job hunt and you can help out, or maybe they aren’t going so well and you could provide a helpline or employee assistance program. In many cases where employees have been stood down, they may find it difficult to proactively seek out help and ask questions. This is where the check-in shines, as it’s a relatively informal method that gives way to a relaxed environment where your employees may find it easier to raise questions or suggestions.
A great resource you can use to help with checking-in is the intelliHR COVID-19 Essentials Platform. There are pre built well being check-ins that help assess how your team is tracking and can provide great context for conversations. We’ve created an automated workflow in the platform that helps businesses keep in touch with their stood down employees and keep them engaged. This HR platform is free and you can sign up to get yours here.
While there may not be any new information available to give your team regarding their future employment or business updates, it’s still important to keep in touch. In these circumstances something is better than nothing, if there is just radio silence coming from their previous leader, it may be perceived as an act of ambivalence towards them. Let them know that you will share information as soon as it becomes available, but in the interim a simple ‘how are you coping’ goes a long way.
As the outbreak continues to speak globally, it’s difficult to predict when social distancing will be eased and life will begin to return to normality. It may be prudent to help your stood down employees into casual or full time work where possible.
A great way to start this process off is to write them a reference. Ask them what they think would be most beneficial to touch on for their job search, and tailor it to fit that mould. They are the ones that are looking for the jobs available and probably have the best understanding on what may be needed to nab the position. Also, make yourself available as a reference and ensure you’re easily contactable.
Another way where you can provide assistance is by offering to reach out to your networks. It’s important to make sure you have your team member’s consent before doing this.
In the interim, if your team members are eligible for the Jobseeker allowance be prompt in providing the letter from the employer. The sooner this can be provided to them, the quicker they will receive their payments. It’s important to note that many are eligible for this even if they haven’t officially stood down but are facing a reduction in their hours. Here is a handy article that details the steps of how to apply for Jobseeker from beginning to end.